I recently reviewed the excellent POLAR V650 which I have continued to use as my primary bike computer, mainly because I like the mapping functions it has built it. I also own the Garmin Edge 520 which is a great mid-level option so I decided to see how they both compare to each other, as well as the popular Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT. I haven’t reviewed the BOLT but it very similar to the full-sized ELEMNT and it is very popular with competitive cyclings due to its lightweight aerodynamic design.

To make my life easier in Excel I used DC Rainmakers comparison chart, then removed irrelevant data and modified any bits I thought were relevant.

From my experience, they are all great options that are priced well. The sub £200 price point makes them just about affordable for casual cyclists while at the same time offering some advanced features that will keep stat and performance-obsessed cyclists happy.

While I would happily use any of them as my main computer, I have found they all appeal to different groups of people.

Buy the Garmin 520 from Amazon Buy the Polar V650 from Amazon Buy the Wahoo from Amazon

Polar V650

If you look at the list of nos in the Polar column it appears that it doesn’t really compete with the other two, but this is primarily due to its lack of ANT+ support, which means it may not be the best choice for cyclists that like to use a lot of sensors on their bike, it is also not compatible with Shimano DI2 shifting.  It is also considerably larger than the other two so not the most aerodynamic.

Where it does excel compared to the other two is the mapping functions. It is not perfect but I have used it for a couple of charity events now, and you can import the GPX or TCX file then sync it to your device, it will then auto start the route as you are near it. It makes doing sportives and charity rides much easier and I plan to use the function for my planned rides much more now, so I can plan a route and add a bit more variety to the roads I go down.

Because of the mapping functions, I would say the V650 is the best option for pleasure/casual cyclists. It is Bluetooth smart compatible so you cans till add some advanced functions and it will work with some smart turbo trainers so there are plenty of features for more serious riders. It is also the cheapest option of the three, which is always a bonus.

Garmin Edge 520

The Edge 520 is probably the one that covers the largest group of people, you get some basic mapping, and an extensive number of features as well as compatibility with ANT+. This allows the device to improve with the rider, you can use the basic functions but as you get more serious there are dozens of things it will pair with. This includes things like Ant+ gear shifting, and DI2 gear shifting, as well as any ANT+ power meters. It is smaller than the V650 so a little more aerodynamic and I found the screen much easier to read.

Garmin Connect is probably the best web app too, and due to the number of Garmin devices on offer, it is nice to have everything under one roof if you have a sports watch or smart scales.

Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT

For a casual cyclist, the ELEMENT computer doesn’t seem as appealing as the other two at first. There is no colour screen, it does have maps but they are basic due to the black and white display, there is no web app and it is more expensive than the other two. However, what it does do, it does well. It is tiny and there are mounts to make it work with aero bikes, using ANT+ and Smart Bluetooth it is compatible with a huge number of sensors. The black and white screen makes it the most readable on a sunny day, and even though the maps are not as detailed as the V650 they are more readable so it could be argued better. It will still be a great option for all riders, but in particular, it appeals to anyone competitive that wants to pair lots of sensors.

Buy the Garmin 520 from Amazon Buy the Polar V650 from Amazon Buy the Wahoo from Amazon

FUNCTION/FEATUREGARMIN EDGE 520POLAR V650WAHOO ELEMNT BOLT
PRICE£179.00£161.90£199.99
DATA TRANSFERUSB & BLUETOOTH SMARTUSB & BluetoothBLUETOOTH SMART, WIFI, USB
WATERPROOFINGIPX7IPX7IPX7
BATTERY LIFE (GPS)15 HOURS10 HOURS15 HOURS
RECORDING INTERVAL1-SECOND OR SMART1-SECOND1-SECOND
SATELLITE PRE-LOADING VIA COMPUTERYESYES - 3 DAYSYES
QUICK SATELLITE RECEPTIONYESYESYES
ALERTSAUDIO/VISUALSOUND/VISUALAUDIO/VISUAL + LED'S
BACKLIGHT GREATNESSGREATOKBEST
BLUETOOTH LEGACY (PRE-4.0) TO PHONENONONO
BLUETOOTH SMART (4.0+) TO PHONE UPLOADINGYESNOT YETYES
PHONE NOTIFICATIONS TO UNIT (I.E. TEXTS/CALLS/ETC...)YESTBAYES
LIVE TRACKING (STREAMING LOCATION TO WEBSITE)YESNOYES
GROUP TRACKINGNONOYES
EMERGENCY/SOS MESSAGE NOTIFICATION (FROM WATCH TO CONTACTS)YESNONO
BUILT-IN CELLULAR CHIP (NO PHONE REQUIRED)NONONO
POWER METER CAPABLEYESYESYES
POWER METER CONFIGURATION/CALIBRATION OPTIONSYESYESYES
POWER METER TSS/NP/IFYESYESYES
SPEED/CADENCE SENSOR CAPABLEYESYESYES
STRAVA SEGMENTS LIVE ON DEVICEYESNOYES
CRASH DETECTIONYESNONO
VO2MAX ESTIMATIONYESN/AN/A
RECOVERY ADVISORYESN/AN/A
CREATE/FOLLOW CUSTOM WORKOUTSYESYESYES
ON-UNIT INTERVAL FEATUREYESNONO
TRAINING CALENDAR FUNCTIONALITYYESNONO
AUTO START/STOPYESYESYES
VIRTUAL PARTNER FEATUREYESNONO
VIRTUAL RACER FEATUREYESNONO
RECORDS PR'S - PERSONAL RECORDS (DIFF THAN HISTORY)YESNONO
WEATHER DISPLAY (LIVE DATA)YESNONO
FOLLOW GPS TRACK (COURSES/WAYPOINTS)YESPLANNEDYES
MARKERS/WAYPOINT DIRECTIONYESNONO
ROUTABLE/VISUAL MAPS (LIKE CAR GPS)YES FOR MAPS (BUT NOT ROUTABLE)YESYES
BACK TO STARTYESYESYES
IMPROMPTU ROUND TRIP ROUTE CREATIONNONONO (BUT CAN CREATE ONE-WAY ROUTES FROM PHONE APP)
DOWNLOAD COURSES/ROUTES FROM PHONE TO UNITYESYESYES
ALTIMETER TYPEBAROMETRICBAROMETRICBAROMETRIC
COMPASS TYPEGPSGPSMAGNETIC
HEART RATE STRAP COMPATIBLEYESYESYES
ANT+ HEART RATE STRAP CAPABLEYESNOYES
ANT+ SPEED/CADENCE CAPABLEYESNOYES
ANT+ FOOTPOD CAPABLENONONO
ANT+ POWER METER CAPABLEYESNOYES
ANT+ WEIGHT SCALE CAPABLEYESNONO
ANT+ FITNESS EQUIPMENT (GYM)NONONO
ANT+ LIGHTING CONTROLYESNONO
ANT+ BIKE RADAR INTEGRATIONYESNONO
ANT+ TRAINER CONTROL (FE-C)YESNOYES
ANT+ REMOTE CONTROLYESNONO
ANT+ EBIKE COMPATIBILITYNONONO
ANT+ MUSCLE OXYGEN (I.E. MOXY/BSX)WITH APPSNOYES
ANT+ GEAR SHIFTING (I.E. SRAM ETAP)YESNOYES
SHIMANO DI2 SHIFTINGYESNOYES
BLUETOOTH SMART HR STRAP CAPABLENOYESYES
BLUETOOTH SMART SPEED/CADENCE CAPABLENOYESYES
BLUETOOTH SMART POWER METER CAPABLENOYESYES
TEMP RECORDING (INTERNAL SENSOR)YESYESYES
TEMP RECORDING (EXTERNAL SENSOR)NONONO
COMPATIBLE WITH FIRSTBEAT HR TOOLSNOTBA-
PC APPLICATIONGARMIN EXPRESSPOLAR FLOWSYNCN/A
WEB APPLICATIONGARMIN CONNECTPOLAR FLOWN/A
PHONE APPIOS/ANDROID/WINDOWS PHONE-IOS/ANDROID
ABILITY TO EXPORT SETTINGSNONONO

 

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